California Continues to Struggle With Economic Inequity

Nine months after the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in earnest, California faces a new stay-at-home order and shutdown that resembles its first, threatening to shutter businesses such as bars and personal care services that perhaps only recently regained their footing. On Sunday, Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley entered a stay-at-home mandate, following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Dec. 3 announcement that regions where intensive care unit availability falls below 15% will enter a stay-at-home period for three weeks.

Shortly after the stay-at-home announcement, the governor spoke at the California Economic Summit, touting the state’s potential for economic recovery and growth.

“There’s no other state that attaches itself to a dream,” Newsom said during the Dec. 4 summit. “And there’s a reason it’s the California dream, because the future happens here first.”

The annual summit, which highlights “regional approaches to economics problem solving,” coincided this year with the launch of the California Dream Index, a measurement tool for economic inequity statewide. According to the index, which highlights 10 indicators of economic mobility, security and inclusion from clean drinking water to affordable rent between 2010 and 2018, California has seen little progress overall in those eight years, with an overall score of about 60 out of 100 both in 2010 and 2018.

Since 2010, prosperous neighborhoods, or areas with fewer than 20% of residents living in poverty, decreased from around 83% to 77% in 2018 across the state. The Redwood Coast region, in particular, saw a sharp decrease in prosperous neighborhoods, from about 90% in 2010 to about 42% in 2018. The state also saw increased commute times, from nearly 27 minutes on average in 2010, to about 29 minutes in 2018.

[READ: California Businesses Boil Over Gavin Newsom’s Fine Dining]

But the state did improve in some areas, according to the index: Broadband internet access across the state has increased from approximately 66% in 2010 to nearly 85% in 2018, while the number of individuals with a college degree or certification has also increased.

With an outlook toward an equitable recovery for the state, the summit highlighted the need for expanding home ownership as “front and center” in 2021, along with investing in small businesses owned by people of color, strengthening education and advancing manufacturing, among other initiatives. In all efforts, the summit emphasized centering equity as a key component of progress.

Despite the events of the last year that have shed light on the state’s inequities — including a devastating wildfire season and increasingly alarming numbers of COVID-19 cases — Newsom is hopeful for the state’s future.

“We’re going to be alright,” Newsom said during the economic summit. “In fact, not only be alright, there’s no state better positioned in the future than this state.”

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